I've written about why eating more helps you lose weight as well as the perils of a starvation diet. So why did I just complete a 12-day cleanse in which I ate no solid food (only broth soup, green juice and a little coconut water)?

Before you shout hypocrite, I've been doing this for six years and my first cleanse, in which I lost 24 pounds in 12 days, was life-transforming for body, mind and spirit. Keep in mind that even the strongest proponents of fasting will tell you it can be (if done smartly) a fantastic tool for your health but a poor one for long-term weight-loss.

Jon Gabriel, author of the bestselling The Gabriel Method, said: "Starvation diets make your body want to be fatter. You can lose a little bit of weight in the short term, but you'll have to pay it back with interest."

That's why the best solution for long-term health is a daily, consistent practice of healthy habits. If you want clean teeth, you have to brush and floss daily. But skipping that and going to the dentist once a month instead is a poor strategy. Teeth are the perfect metaphor for fasting because even though consistency is the key to oral health, there's some stuff that gets stuck and requires a more aggressive approach.

In very simplistic terms, the liver has two jobs: To filter out toxins and to metabolize fat. If it's too "busy" dealing with toxins, then it has less capacity to burn fat. Having a healthy liver is paramount to both health and weight loss. Just as changing your oil will make your car more efficient and get better gas mileage, detoxing your liver will do the same for your body. The downside is that, after a fast, you will have less muscle and a much slower metabolism.

Once you finish your fast/detox, you have reached the critical moment. I lived at Spa Samui, a fasting resort in Thailand, for more than a year so I've watched hundreds of people go through the program. Many are so overjoyed at finishing that they go out and eat massive quantities of junk food. Everything they denied themselves gets consumed in their first meal.

And their body freaks out! They end up leaving in worse shape than when they started. Keep in mind that fasting and gorging is a well-researched strategy for sumo wrestlers to gain weight.

The solution is simple. When you finish, eat very small, healthy, low-fat meals. Fermented foods are great because they put the healthy bacteria that have been flushed out back into your system (it also helps to take probiotics). Have a little kimchi or sauerkraut. Drink green juices and have a salad. A little bit of seasonal fruit is OK, but again, have very small portions.

After you eat, move! Take a walk after every meal. Play Frisbee. Jump on a rebounder or go for a swim. Resume your exercise routine immediately with an emphasis on resistance training. By doing so, you start to build lean muscle mass and you speed up your metabolism.

Jennifer Thompson, a detox expert and founder of HealthyBliss.net says, "Any time you finish a cleanse you need to teach your metabolism how to work again. You want a body that eats-burns-eats-burns not a body that eats-stores-eats-stores."

Now you're in the perfect state to lose weight because:

1. You've broken addiction to cravings.
2. Your liver can efficiently metabolize fat.
3. Your digestive tract is healthier so you feel fuller quicker.
4. You've proven your self-discipline.
5. You experience what it's like to feel good and want to maintain that feeling.

Fasting is a building block for better health and weight loss. It's a start, not a solution. How to fast is for another day, though do your homework and then go for it. Just remember that when you think you are finished, your work has only begun.

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If you're looking for ways to boost your workout regimen this holiday season, the solution may lie in those people closest to you.

A recent study done at Kansas State University determined that people can be more motivated at the gym if they are working out in a group setting. The researchers based their study on the idea of the Köhler Effect, which states that weaker individuals often perform better when working in a group setting rather than on their own.

For their study, the researchers gathered 58 female college students and told them to ride a stationary bike for as long as they could. The researchers gave the college students a virtual partner via a computer screen, telling the women that this partner rode longer than they did during her pre-trail ride. When the two women rode together, researchers found that the college students lasted an average of 40 percent (nine minutes) longer than when they had ridden alone.

When the college students were told that they and their virtual partner were on a team, and that their score would be based on who stopped first, on average the college students increased their individual time by a staggering 160 percent (11 minutes).

"We were pleasantly surprised by how big the motivation gains were," Brandon Irwin, one of the study's authors, told Wired, "but I think the most interesting thing was that for the partners who were the weak link in the group, the fact that their motivation wasn’t only greater than in the other two groups but it actually increased over time."

Irwin and other researchers are still determining the best way to apply their findings. A common idea is to look into developing some sort of virtual workout partner, which Irwin described as "similar to matchmaking software for romantic relationships online." In other words, as long as people had a smartphone, they could find a partner and hit the gym.

But until that happens, we'll have to settle for other real, live human beings as our partners.

(H/T to Wired)

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